A Publication of WTVP

Citizens take the low tuition rates at Illinois Central College and other community colleges for granted. But the formula for creating the funds needed to operate the community college remains an unknown to most people. To ensure the community college remains a vital resource for central Illinois, it’s important that citizens understand where the money originates.

Traditionally, community colleges like ICC balanced the cost of providing an accessible college education by generating funds from three main sources: state appropriations, student tuition, and the local tax levy. Over the past several years, the state has decreased its funding so that today it provides less thanone-quarter of the funds ICC needs to operate the college. The amount a college receives from the state is calculated from two main equations: the reimbursable credit hours formula and the equalization formula.

The reimbursable credit hours formula is similar to the kind of formula the government uses to reimburse different health care needs under Medicare-programs needing greater resources tend to receive a higher level of funding. For community colleges, the funding is split into six main categories: programs leading to bachelor’s degrees (also called transfer programs); business occupational programs; technical occupational programs; health occupational; remedial and developmental programs (those that help students who haven’t attained college-level skills acquire these skills); and adult basic education, GED programs, and English as a second language.

ICC students traditionally have enrolled heavily in transfer programs, health occupational programs, and technical occupational programs. Additionally, many students benefited from remedial and developmental programs. The credit hour "grant rate" for the past several years was highest for health programs, which require greater laboratory and other resources. The second highest rate was for technical occupational programs, which also are fairly resource intense. Transfer programs were third in level of reimbursement.

Recently, the state decided to emphasize adult basic education, English as a second language, and GED programs. The Illinois Community College Board voted to increase the reimbursement of these programs by 426.6 percent, while at the same time decreasing transfer program funding by nearly 30 percent. Health care programs saw a modest bump in reimbursement, and business occupational programs saw a healthy 69 percent increase in the rate. Today, health care programs remain at the highest level of reimbursement, but adult basic education/GED/English as a second language have gone from the lowest level of reimbursement to the second highest. Transfer programs receive the second lowest level, while remedial and developmental education receives the lowest level of funding.

While these shifts are invisible to community college constituents, they do mark a change in policy from the state. The emphasis from helping students get started on a bachelor’s program has clearly shifted to providing adult education and teaching English as a second language. This movement tends to favor urban communities with high levels of immigrants. At the same time, downstate community colleges, which traditionally have been able to help students get a good start on their bachelor’s degrees, will see a significant loss in support from the state. Health care, however, still remains a major emphasis of the community college.

Community colleges should function autonomously to ensure that they respond and meet the needs of the people they serve. ICC is certainly committed to adult education but can’t compromise our primary role of providing high-quality, low-cost transfer programs. IBI